Some Chaos Before Breakfast

h1 March 10th, 2020 by jules


Colin Meloy’s new picture book, Everyone’s Awake (Chronicle, March 2020), is a wild ride. To say the least. Illustrated by Shawn Harris, it’s an exhilarating and joyous and downright anarchic adventure.

Told in rhyme (a rhyme with just the right amount of energy that manages to avoid being annoyingly jaunty) from the point of view of a child attempting to sleep (unlike the rest of the family), we readers get a first-hand glimpse at the beautiful chaos. The darker blues of the shadows at night that open the book make way for vivid, lemony yellows when we take a peek at what the bustling lighthouse-home is up to. And there’s a lot going on; the more you read, the more bizarre things get. I don’t want to give too many examples and ruin the read for you, when you get your hands on a copy of this, but suffice it to say that Sister, for one, recites Baudelaire; Mom tap dances to Prince (before winning the Pulitzer); Brother teaches the cat some dirty words (oh, what is left to the imagination there!); Dad buys “ten-yard bolts of chintz”; the dog throws darts; and soooo much more. There’s also Grandma, who gets a visit from “long-dead Grandpa Paul.” Harris (talk about extending the text) has Grandpa show up in a mighty, gothic, supernatural ghost ship in the sky, pictured below.

What’s particularly fun are the perspectives here. On the fourth spread, we’re right behind Grandma and dad in the kitchen (with brother sitting high atop a stack of books). We are right behind sister as she flosses, seeing her reflected in the bathroom mirror. We are at the bottom of the stairs as Grandma flies down them. At one point, we’re even in the air outside, looking down slightly on a cross-section of the house (also pictured below). Harris keeps us on our toes, and the eye-popping palette matches the book’s high-flying energy. The illustrations, printed in three spot-colors, are rendered with India ink, charcoal, and pencil. Observant readers may enjoy spotting the frog; there’s one on each spread of the book.

Four things: 1) This is a book for re-reading, as it’s a big ol’ feast for the eyes, filled with funny, offbeat details. 2) This is, thus far in the year, my favorite 2020 dustjacket art (and be sure to lift the dustjacket for a surprise on the book’s cover). 3) I wish I’d written this, but Alexis Lampley at DAGMN did: “This entire book feels like when you rolled yourself down a hill as a kid and you started to get momentum and then you feel yourself starting to panic has you get going really fast, but it’s also a lot of fun so you just hold on till the bottom and then when you stop you just lie there looking up at the clouds as they whirl in circles over your head until you feel steady enough to stand.” What she said. AND. 4) This book is a prime example of why I often like to write here at 7-Imp: I’m going to stop running my mouth and let some art do the talking. So, that’s what I’m going to do now.


“Dad had done the dishes. / Mom had locked the doors. / I was snuggled up in bed
listening for the snores / of all my fellow housemates / till it occurred to me / that all my fellow housemates / were as wakeful as could be!”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“Grandma’s at her needlework. / Dad is baking bread.
My brother’s making laundry lists / of every book he’s read.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“The dog’s into the eggnog; / Mom’s tap dancing to Prince
while Dad is on the laptop / buying ten-yard bolts of chintz.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“I cannot think what happened to make us act this way.
We all were feeling drowsy at the dimming of the day. …”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“Mom is on the rooftop/ fixing broken slates.
And Brother’s in the kitchen juggling the plates. …”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


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EVERYONE’S AWAKE. Text copyright © 2020 by Colin Meloy. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Shawn Harris and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

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